Large amount of urine/poop stains in clothes and bedding: what now?
July 14, 2017 2:38 PM   Subscribe

Need advice on getting the odor and stains, for a large amount of urine and poopy in clothing and bedding.

My mother is dying. She is not much longer for this world. She lives with me and hospice is coming in. I'm even a retired nurse myself. I know where to get support and such, but her gowns and bedding is a pain to get clean.

She does wear attends, but she leaks. There is a lot more TMI about that but trust me. It can get pretty messy.

I used to bleach them, along with adding baking soda and even vinegar. Even that didn't get the scent out. I'd have to soak them, then wash them twice or maybe even three times. Her condition has always caused the scent.

She recently became completely bed bound. She has dementia, but can still communicate her needs. I just spent a ton of money for more comfortable clothing, sheets and blankets. Unfortunately, I couldn't get 100% cotton with my budget. I wanted brighter colors to make her happy, so bleach is out and honestly, that worked so much better than vinegar and baking soda. Yes, bleach isn't environmentally friendly, but you have to do what you have to do sometimes.

That said, does anyone know of something, anything, that will help?

List of things I've tried but didn't work:
* Vinegar
* Baking soda
* Those crystal nice smelling things to add a great scent to laundry.
* Different detergents.
* Essential oils
* Shampoo

I'm sure there's more but I'm so exhausted I can't think. Need coffee right now.

Are there any other suggestions? Something I've missed?

I know that the stains come out really good if I use pet stain remover, which is generally color friendly, but the odor is still there.

Please help me! I am at a loss on how to handle this. My washer is so busy it's also getting ready to break down and we've had it only a year.

I will love you all for any advice you can direct to me.
posted by magnoliasouth to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (30 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
posted by GuyZero at 2:40 PM on July 14, 2017

Oxi Clean. It is incredibly effective on protein stains, and it's relatively safe for colors.
posted by mama casserole at 2:41 PM on July 14, 2017 [13 favorites]

Are you running a rinse cycle before the wash cycle? If you don't, you're just washing in dirty water, as I learned from washing cloth diapers. Running that extra cycle first makes a big difference, in my experience.

You might Google "cloth diaper stink" and see if any of the recommendations that pop up are helpful.

I don't do this for diapers, but I usually add powdered OxyClean to the wash cycle (in addition to detergent) for clothes that have urine or cat barf on them.

You might also try drying in the sun—might help both odor and stains.

—Signed, a person who had a breakdown when she saw she had to wash a cat-barfed-upon comforter for the umpteenth time
posted by timestep at 2:44 PM on July 14, 2017 [12 favorites]

Oh this seems so hard. I'd definitely try Oxi Clean, it's great for this kind of thing.
posted by radioamy at 2:56 PM on July 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oxyclean is my go-to for all kinds of laundry issues, many involving dogs. The one thing it seems unable to do is get a weird rancid oil smell out of two very specific very old bar-mop-type towels that I should throw away, but I'm blaming the towels and not the Oxyclean.

And yeah, for really soiled things I do one short cycle with just detergent, and then a second regular/heavy cycle with detergent and oxyclean.

It may not get the stains. I have had to deal with various dog injuries and it's not great at protein stains on light colors, in any case. But I've gotten mildew funk, dog-related smells, spoiled garbage smells etc out of natural and synthetic fabrics with it.

You may want to add bed pads, either washable or disposable, to keep the sheets cleaner.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:57 PM on July 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

OdoBan. Two tablespoons or so in the rinse instead of fabric softener. Used by my friend whose husband is bedridden and while he has a cath and ostomy, there are leaks and poopsplosions. OdoBan is magic.

If you use oxyclean, wash in hot water, as it requires heat to create the chemical reaction.
posted by monopas at 2:59 PM on July 14, 2017 [7 favorites]

Could you send them to a commercial laundry? They use a really strong alkali soap, strong enough that they have to add a mild acid at the end of the wash cycle to neutralize the soap.

If you haven't tried washing soda yet, I recommend it. It is stronger than baking soda.
posted by Bruce H. at 3:01 PM on July 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

Rinse with Nature's Miracle. The load wash again with soap and whatever but with a cup of Nature's Miracle dumped right on the laundry.

This has worked for every pet stain I've had, various baby and small child stains, and the bedclothes of my grandmother.

By rinse, I mean use the Nature's Miracle in the softener cup and run the rinse cycle.

Also, Zote bar soap will clean anything but the scent is probably too much for your mother.

Very sorry you are going through this.

Speaking from experience, the mattress is probably a loss along with any fall prevention matts or rail pads.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 3:11 PM on July 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

Trisodium phosphate is another home remedy. It was banned years ago in commercial detergents, but is still available in hardware stores for cleaning walls that are about to be painted. The package I have doesn't have instructions for laundry use, but a brief Google search suggests 1 tablespoon in a load of laundry would be a starting point.
posted by Bruce H. at 3:14 PM on July 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

This sounds really hard, I'm so sorry. Nthing Borax and/or OxyClean, plus chux to prevent spillage onto the bedsheets if you're not already using them and your mom's skin can tolerate them. I would suggest running a bleach rinse cycle before and after each load, and make sure that your machine is washing on its highest temperature. Finally, the hospice organization might have some suggestions for washing and door removal if nothing else works.

Wishing you and your family well.
posted by stillmoving at 3:32 PM on July 14, 2017

Are you sure that your washing water is a high enough temperature? You might consider raising the temperature on your hot water heater, or using a laundromat.
posted by vignettist at 3:38 PM on July 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

OxyClean and the hot water cycle got us through two fabric-diapered kids; that's what you want. My condolences on your situation, and good luck.
posted by mhoye at 3:42 PM on July 14, 2017

Try adding a 2 liter bottle of coca cola to your wash at the beginning. Warning: I have only done this in top loaders. It gets most smells out.
posted by fshgrl at 3:51 PM on July 14, 2017

Soak in Oxyclean. The same product under a different name is used in Australia to clean cloth diapers by pretty much every single mother I know. The idea is you soak overnight (or longer if you can't get to them that day) wash on hot as normal then dry in the sunshine. Sunshine is great for bleaching out pee & poop stains & smells, it will fade the color slightly but without the blotchiness of bleach itself.

You can buy bedliners to help with this problem.
posted by wwax at 3:59 PM on July 14, 2017

Ugh, this sounds so hard! I'm sorry you're having to deal with this.

I'm going to recommend what I use on things cats have peed or pooped on - hot water wash with a bunch of oxyclean, and at least a cup of full strength Simple Green. Walmart carries it in their auto parts department, and other stores have it too - sometimes in the auto parts, sometimes with all the cleaning supplies. This stuff is magic, it's the only thing I know that truly keeps cats from peeing on something over and over.
posted by MexicanYenta at 4:12 PM on July 14, 2017

I think that vinegar as the rinsing agent (like half a cup) is what the internet recommends for towels that refuse to release their mildew smell. We've used it--it works for that purpose.

I'm sorry you are going through this; I'm sure it's very hard.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:41 PM on July 14, 2017

What MexicanYenta?!?!! Um that's a recipe for very bad things. While I will fully admit to using Simple Green in laundry when I had an old top loader, I'd never have used that much. It would take at least another full cycle to rinse out! And my love for Simple Green is such that I have been known to use it to wash dishes and my hands. But it is totally the Dr. Bronner's of household detergents (Dilute, Dilute, OK!).

Please, do not add a cup of Simple Green if you have a front loader or HE machine. If you do I'm reasonably certain that if your washer has a foam sensor, you'll find out what happens. Or worse.
posted by monopas at 5:00 PM on July 14, 2017

Another product I haven't seen mentioned yet is BioKleen Bac-Out. I learned about it during my cloth diapering days. It's an enzyme-based cleaner, a bit like Nature's Miracle. Folks who did not want to use bleach on their diapers (either to preserve the polyurethane lining or to keep the cute printed fabrics looking nice) would swear by it. I never used it much, since I found that bleach was a necessary component of our wash routine, and our diapers were sturdy enough to take a bit of bleach.

Our wash routine was as follows:
-Cold rinse cycle with no detergent added
-Hot wash cycle with 1/2 the manufacturer's suggested amount of detergent and bleach/cold rinse
-Final cold rinse with vinegar

Some folks found that using too much detergent would eventually lead to a buildup of detergent residue on the fabric, which would hold onto stink, paradoxically. To remedy this, they sometimes boiled the diapers, or sent them through a series of super hot wash cycles with no detergent added. Turn your hot water heater up and/or boil a stock pot of water on the stove to add to the washing machine to boost the temperature. But really, rinse, rinse, rinse.
posted by fancyoats at 5:49 PM on July 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Also, an old-school top-loader washing machine, not a high efficiency model, not a front-loader, is what will really get the job done. New machines minimize the amount of water used, which will be working against you in this case. Rinse rinse rinse. Lots of water. Hot water.
posted by fancyoats at 5:53 PM on July 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Are you dealing with hard water at all?
posted by vignettist at 6:12 PM on July 14, 2017

Anti Icky Poo is another enzyme cleaner I highly recommend.

Also, you are a very kind and strong person. Wishing both you and you mom the best.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:54 PM on July 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oxy clean and nature's miracle are what keep my four-pet home from smelling like a barn. Always an extra rinse cycle.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 7:58 PM on July 14, 2017

Do you have access to a clothes line. My mother used cloth diapers when I was little and she swears on the power of sunshine to de-stink diapers and prevent diaper rash. Rinse all the soiled areas in running water (tub or hose outside will work) and then wash with whatever combo you find that works the best (dreft is a baby laundry soap which might work but i don't have 1st hand experience) and hang to dry. As a bonus sheets dried outside smell so good (provided you don't have allergy problems). I would avoid fabric softeners since they leave a residue which could retain the smell even more.
posted by estronaut at 8:42 PM on July 14, 2017

Borax and washing soda if you can find it, do wonders. Just a suggestion, make your life easier and get some washable or disposable bed pads. Some stores carry them in the baby/toddler section and tends to be cheaper.
posted by stray thoughts at 10:05 PM on July 14, 2017

All good suggestions above - but is it possible to add hospital bed pads to your arsenal of supplies? It's so much easier to just change those out and wash those. And in a pinch, on some really bad days for my father, we used disposable puppy training pads.

But having worked with vintage clothing, and at a drycleaner/laundry for years, I can say that most of the advice about hot enough water, drying thoroughly and sun is spot-on. You may need to use a good old-fashioned top-loader too. Make sure you're cleaning the machine itself, and the laundry baskets too.
posted by peagood at 7:11 AM on July 15, 2017

sorry, double
posted by The Toad at 8:07 AM on July 15, 2017

Cloth diaper routine: First rinse just with cold water (this step is crucial). Then wash hot with detergent. Add oxiclean to get stains out. Bleaching in the sun for a few hours has the same effect as oxiclean IME.
Wishing you strength and easy laundry.
posted by The Toad at 8:10 AM on July 15, 2017

Going forwards, if she is literally wearing 'Attends' brand briefs, you may have less of a problem with a different brand. I highly recommend the tranquility brand overnight briefs sheer quantity of pee/liquid feces is the problem, they seem to be about the most liquid capacity. She may need a different size than you expect to reduce leaks as well. They are not cheap, but can be purchase online, usually cheaper than at home health places locally. Several online companies will send you samples of various products if you call and explain what is happening with her current products. Hospice may have some samples/ideas to try as well. Generally the 'diapers style' are more absorbent than the pullups, but honestly if you are buying drugstore/walmart, you can probably get a better product which will help in either style. Also, many soakers. The walgreens disposable XL absorabent pads are pretty good. If $$ is a major concern, I have used literally puppy training pads as absorbent disposable pads, just look for unscented ones. Disposable ones are not strong enough lift sheets though. This is a hard problem.
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 3:02 PM on July 15, 2017

My son was a nightly bedwetter for longer than I care to remember. For $Reasons we were kind of backed into a corner, and wound up ordering from Amazon a six-pack of cheap fitted sheets, reusable chux, and mattress protectors. We threw them out frequently. It wasn't going to scale indefinitely, but we knew it was time-limited, and we just figured we were going to have to spend the money. This was the most comfortable solution for our highly sensitive son as well.

Thinking of you, still.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 4:44 PM on July 15, 2017

If you want to consider that the Attends might not be sufficient, you might look into getting absorbent inserts. For example, for kids they have things called diaper inserts, they're like a maxi pad but without the plastic backing. We add them into the diaper at night for extra absorbency so that the diaper doesn't leak. I imagine that the same type of product would be available for adults.
posted by vignettist at 8:57 PM on July 15, 2017

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